R.I.P. legendary harmonica player Toots Thielemans

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    (August 22, 2016) We are sad to inform SoulTrackers of the death at age 94 of legendary harmonica player and guitarist Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor, Baron Thielemans, aka Toots Thielemans, one of the most important jazz musicians of the mid-20th Century who performed with countless greats.

    The Brussels-born, Thielemans began his career as a guitar player. In 1949 he joined a jam session in Paris with Sidney Bechet,Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Max Roach and others. In 1949 and 1950 he participated in European tours with Benny Goodman, making his first record in Stockholm with fellow band member, tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims. In 1951 he became a band member of the singer-songwriter and compatriot Bobbejaan Schoepen. (At the time, he was still performing strictly as a guitarist.)

    (August 22, 2016) We are sad to inform SoulTrackers of the death at age 94 of legendary harmonica player and guitarist Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor, Baron Thielemans, aka Toots Thielemans, one of the most important jazz musicians of the mid-20th Century who performed with countless greats.

    The Brussels-born, Thielemans began his career as a guitar player. In 1949 he joined a jam session in Paris with Sidney Bechet,Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Max Roach and others. In 1949 and 1950 he participated in European tours with Benny Goodman, making his first record in Stockholm with fellow band member, tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims. In 1951 he became a band member of the singer-songwriter and compatriot Bobbejaan Schoepen. (At the time, he was still performing strictly as a guitarist.)

    He moved to the United States in 1952 where he was a member of Charlie Parker's All-Stars and worked with Miles Davis and Dinah Washington. From 1952 to 1959 he was a member of the George Shearing Quintet, primarily playing guitar but also being featured on harmonica both in performances and on recordings. He also played and recorded with Ella Fitzgerald, Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, Stephane Grappelli, J.J. Johnson, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Shirley Horn, and Joe Pass, among others. And once ("I'm a singer": The shadows of your smile) with Billy Eckstine. John Lennon bought his first Rickenbacker guitar after seeing Thielemans play it during a 1959 concert.

    A jazz standard by Toots Thielemans is "Bluesette," where he used whistling and guitar in unison. First recorded by him in 1962, with lyrics added by Norman Gimbel, the song became a major worldwide hit. He worked both as a bandleader and as a sideman, including many projects with composer/arranger Quincy Jones. He performed on many film soundtracks, such as Midnight Cowboy,Cinderella Liberty, Jean de Florette, The Sugarland Express, The Yakuza, Turkish Delight, the 1972 version of The Getaway, French Kiss, Dunderklumpen!, and in various television programs, including Sesame Street, whose closing credits (which did not list him accordingly) featured his performance, on harmonica, of the show's theme, the Belgian television series Witse, and in the Netherlands, for the Baantjer program.

    During the 1980s he performed with the bassist Jaco Pastorius in ensembles ranging from duet to the Word of Mouth Big Band. In 1983 he contributed to Billy Joel's album An Innocent Man, and his trademark harmonica can be heard on "Leave A Tender Moment Alone." (The two later collaborated on this selection in concert, and this was recorded on video.) A year later, he appeared on the Julian Lennon song "Too Late for Goodbyes" from the album Valotte. In 1984, he recorded with Billy Eckstine on the singer's final album (I Am a Singer), featuring ballads and standards arranged and conducted by Angelo DiPippo. In the 1990s, Thielemans embarked on theme projects that included world music. In 1998 he released a French-flavoured album titled "Chez Toots" that included the Les moulins de mon cœur (The Windmills of Your Mind) featuring guest singer Johnny Mathis. 

    Thielmans was well liked for his modesty and kind demeanor. In his native Belgium, and was known for describing himself as a Brussels "ket," which means "street kid" in old Brussels slang. He received a joint honorary doctorate from the Université libre de Bruxelles and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium. In 2001, Thielmans was raised into the Belgian nobility by King Albert II and given the noble title Baron for life, this in recognition of his contribution to music.

    He was nominated for the title of the Greatest Belgian in 2005. In the Flemish version he finished in 20th place, and in the Walloonversion he came 44th. In 2009, he became an NEA Jazz Master, the highest honour for a jazz musician in the United States.

    On 23 January 2009, he joined guitarist Philip Catherine on stage at the Liberchies church (Belgium) in memory of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Django Reinhardt. In 2012, the Jazz at Lincoln Center concerts in New York celebrated Thielman's 90th birthday with, among others, Herbie Hancock, Eliane Elias, and Kenny Werner. He performed for the occasion and left the stage standing among his friends.

    This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Toots Thielemans

     
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